In these tough economic times, even workers at stable organisations might be finding it hard to stay motivated. This can make it difficult for managers to maintain a positive, productive work environment.

Strong staff morale is critical to ensuring that productivity and retention levels remain high. 

Here are the CIO UK seven effective ways to keep your employees motivated and ensure that your organisation remains a positive place to work.

1. Don't sugarcoat the truth. Open communication is better than silence and secrecy. Discuss the organisation's current situation and future viability with your staff. To the extent appropriate, share plans for riding out the recession. Invite workers to brainstorm about how lessons learned during past downturns could be applied now.

2. Listen to your staff. Sharing news with your workers is important, but so is listening to them. By giving them a chance to voice their concerns and ask questions, you'll be able to accurately gauge the overall attitude in the workplace. Because some employees may be reluctant to speak up, you'll need to tune in to subtle cues as well. Stroll through your workplace -- do you hear laughter, or are people working in grim silence? Do employees seem enthusiastic or muted? Their behavior will provide important clues about the prevailing mood.

3. Assign work strategically. Re-evaluate each staff member's responsibilities and do some fine-tuning so the team can work more efficiently. Make this a collaborative process -- ask your staff how best to distribute the workload. There may be duties or projects they would like to tackle, and giving them manageable new challenges can be motivating.

4. Protect staff from overload. Be realistic about your employees' limits. If you sense that your employees are overwhelmed, take action before they reach a state of burnout. Determine which projects are urgent and which can be put on hold or redistributed. Or consider bringing in freelancers to work on projects on an as-needed basis to provide additional support and relieve pressure.

5. Reward employees and show appreciation. Rewarding employees is less about offering material things than about showing respect and appreciation. Small gestures, such as saying thank you, asking their opinions on ideas and complimenting their efforts, can help show that you are grateful for their hard work and loyalty.

6. Talk about higher purpose. How do your organisation's products or services make your customers' lives safer, happier, healthier or easier? Is your organisation involved in philanthropy or community service initiatives? Remind your employees that they are making meaningful contributions not only to the organisation, but also to the community.

7. Focus on the future. Although you might not be able to make binding commitments or promises, now is a good time to talk with your employees about their career paths. Speak to them about how to make their jobs more satisfying, assist them in reaching their professional goals or provide opportunities for advancement.

By taking steps to boost morale and foster a positive culture, you'll see benefits beyond higher levels of employee motivation. A positive work environment is one of the most effective and powerful retention and recruitment tools you can have. When employees enjoy their work, they're more likely to stay, and the most talented job candidates will naturally be drawn to an organisation with a reputation for having a great corporate culture.

Dave Willmer is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support.